Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Why Run for Roots? Part 4

Run for Roots is a new initiative that embodies the Roots of Hope mission by seeking to draw attention and collect funds in support of Cuban youth. The participants who will be running the Miami Half Marathon in January 2012 are motivated to do so by the desire to be agents of change and help empower youth on the island through innovative programs such Roots of Hope as Cells 4 Cuba and our Family Reunification Program. To learn more about Run for Roots, visit our website. To donate, visit our Crowdrise page.

I run because...

By Nathalie Marcos

We all have a reason for everything we do, whether it is staying at a dull job just to pay off student loans or spending all day roasting a pig on Christmas Eve just like our grandfather did years ago.

Running is no different. For some it might be in memory of their late aunt who passed away from Cancer or to honor the brave men and women who fight for our liberty overseas. For me, it is the 11.2 million people living without freedom in Cuba that make me strive to reach the finish line. These Cubans are my brothers and sisters whom I have never met. I have no blood relation to them and all have lived a very different life. So why do they mean so much to me? Because their everyday struggles are something that my family endured many decades ago in the same small island only 90 miles from where I was born. My uncle was beaten in prison, my father was separated from his parents, and my grandfather’s businesses were overtaken by the government time and time again. Luckily, my family was able to escape but others weren’t so lucky.

However, growing up, my family never forgot that others were still suffering. Both my parents made sure to not just read about what was happening in Cuba, but to do something about it. In first grade, my mom and I set up a food drive for Cuba. My father went on two medical missions to Guantanamo Bay in the 1990s and my mother went back ten years after she left to bring hope to family members still on the island. I stood outside Elian’s house during his custody battle and I prayed after the planes of Brothers to the Rescue were shot down over international waters.

Witnessing these events took a big toll on me. I waited for my turn to make an impact, and then I found Raices de Esperanza. Through this family of passionate young leaders, I have taken part in innovative ways to help my counterparts on the island. The most recent of which is Run for Roots.

The Cuban reality is hard to explain because those of us who live in freedom can only imagine it to be a fantastical nightmare. Those still in the island today are silenced by fear or disillusioned by brutality. Unable to leave Cuba, their everyday life is dictated by political propaganda and ration cards. Cellphones are a luxury and the ability to decide your future merely an illusion.

Look, I know I cannot free an island by myself and running a half marathon cannot directly change the fate of those I speak of. My efforts are small but they are genuine.

When I run, I think of the Ladies in White. These brave women march the streets of Havana each week for the release of their loved ones in prison who were wrongly incarcerated. They have been beaten without mercy and yet they continue their mission. Their desperation outweighs their fear.

I also think of Yoanis Sanchez, the voice of the Cuban reality. I think of everything she goes through just to share her thoughts on the internet. I also think of my direct counterpart, the average 24-year-old Cuban girl who dreams of making something of herself, of bettering the world around her, and yet her aspirations are merely a fading illusion simply because she lives in an island that does not believe she has the right to dictate her own future. With every mile, I carry with me her dreams. I carry the determination to end the struggle. I carry with me the hope of a better future for the island of Cuba.

I run for my brothers and sisters. Together, the finish line is only the beginning.

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